Tuesday, December 21, 2010

holiday goodies

I've been really busy making goodies for various holiday functions lately. I haven't even had time to take pictures of everything - there were caramels and English toffee, a really cool cheese platter, and I even took a stab at making crackers, although that didn't go so well.

I did manage to get a picture of the peanut brittle I made, which came out super fantastic! It's so easy to make - it just takes a little patience.

Here are some coconut macaroons, as well. I don't put as much sugar in them as the recipe calls for because the coconut is sweet enough as it is. When they bake, they get really nicely toasty and crunchy on the outside, but stay creamy and soft inside. So yummy!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

thai peanut noodles with chicken

So. Yummy!

I made a sauce of peanut butter, soy sauce, a little honey, garlic, grated fresh ginger, Sriracha (I only used a teaspoon of it because Mark can't eat really hot stuff), and chicken stock. I let it thicken a little while I cooked some linguine noodles (I couldn't find udon) in salted water. My husband insists on meat in most dinners, so I very thinly sliced some chicken breast and stir-fried it in some canola oil quickly. I drained the noodles, then tossed them with the sauce and chicken, and topped them with chopped peanuts, cilantro, green onions, and lime wedges. We squeezed the lime over the noodles and mixed it all up before eating it. It was really quick, very tasty, and relatively healthy. And, more importantly, it was something very different from what we usually have. I'll definitely make this again, especially now that I have the Sriracha hanging around in the fridge.

baked ravioli

The idea of baked ravioli, coupled with the picture of lovely toasted bubbly cheese that this recipe painted totally seduced me. I was a slathering, cheese-craving mess by the time I got done reading it. Must...make...the ravioli, I thought. So, I gave the recipe a try...and while the results were certain edible, I have to say that for the amount of work that went into making it, I feel I'd have been better off just making lasagna.

The recipe called for frozen ravioli, and basically you just parboil it, combine it with sauce, top it with cheese, and bake it. Easy-peasy, right? Yeah, if you like jarred marinara sauce...which I don't. So, I ended up making a batch of sauce to go on the ravioli and adding about 40 minutes to the whole process by the time it was all said and done. Like I said - it was tasty enough, but for probably less money and the same amount of time and effort, I could have made lasagna and probably been happier.

stuffed peppers

One of my husband's most favorite meals is stuffed peppers. They're a little bit of work, but they're worth it...and it's a good make-ahead type meal.

I try to find 4 green bell peppers that are all relatively the same height and that stand fairly level on their own. I cut the tops off, core them, and rinse out the seeds, then they go top-down in the steamer for 5 minutes to soften. I remove them and set them aside in the casserole dish I'm going to bake them in, and then work on my filling. I use ground turkey in my filling, but it would work just as well with ground pork or beef, or even no meat at all. Sometimes I also add black beans, which is yummy as well. I usually use a large can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes in the filling, as well as a can of chopped tomatoes with their juices, and I use (pre-cooked) brown rice. Everything gets mixed together: meat, tomatoes, rice, along with some oregano and thyme, salt and pepper. I spoon the mixture into the peppers, and any extra filling I have, I spoon into the pan around the peppers to help hold them up as they bake. I sprinkle either some shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese on top of the stuffed peppers, and they bake in a 400 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes. Sometimes they need a quick trip under the broiler to brown the cheese on top just before serving.

Monday, December 6, 2010

tandoori chicken and jasmine rice

Flipping through a cookbook looking for inspiration yesterday before going grocery shopping, I ran across a quite simple-sounding recipe for tandoori chicken that I found interesting enough to try.

It called for a marinade made of plain yogurt mixed with garlic, ground ginger, turmeric, salt and pepper. You mix that all together, coat the chicken with it and let it sit for a few minutes up to a few hours. The chicken then cooks in a very hot (475 degree) oven for about 30-35 minutes. During that time I made some jasmine rice to go with it, as well as the yogurt sauce the recipe suggested, which consisted of two shredded Granny Smith apples mixed with half a cup of plain yogurt, and some chopped cilantro. I couldn't find any fresh cilantro so I skipped it, and I think the yogurt sauce suffered for it. The chicken itself was nice - flavorful, very moist and just a little bit spicy. Next time I think I'll add a bit more spice to the yogurt mixture and then just make a normal raita to go with the chicken.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

soup and sandwich

It was miserably cold the other day, and my husband requested some chicken soup for dinner. What goes better with chicken noodle soup than a grilled cheese sandwich? Nothing, I say!

My favorite grilled cheese sandwich is made with whole wheat bread and swiss cheese, which is what is pictured above. I make them in a cast-iron pan and they come out lovely and crisp on the outside, creamy and cheesy inside. Bliss!

As for the soup, I don't usually put noodles in my chicken soup but Mark asked for them this time so I put some in. I have to say - ever since I started making my own soup, I cannot bring myself to eat canned soup. It's just vastly inferior. Chicken soup is ridiculously easy to make - it takes all of 10 minutes - and the finished product is exponentially better tasting than anything you can get in a can.

Here's my super-simple recipe. You can make this even easier if you use pre-cooked chicken.

Chicken Noodle Soup

32oz lower-sodium chicken stock
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large rib of celery, peeled and chopped - I like to use the celery leaves, too.
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast half, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bay leaf
1-2 handfuls of dried wide pasta noodles (not egg noodles)
black pepper to taste

Bring stock to a boil over medium-high heat while you chop the veggies and the chicken. Add veggies and chicken to hot stock and stir. Let cook on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Add noodles (start with one handful. If it doesn't look like enough, throw some more in. I like to err on the side of over-noodling), bay leaf and black pepper (I use kind of a lot because I like the kick it gives the soup, especially when I'm sick), and allow to cook at a medium boil until noodles are al dente. Fish out the bay leaf before serving.

NOTE: if you make this soup with the intention of freezing it (which I often do), do NOT put the noodles in...add them when you warm up the soup after it has been frozen, otherwise you end up with really mushy pasta in your soup, which is less than appetizing, generally.